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slides: Family Matters: Top 10 Toys That Don’t Cost a Penny

Friday, November 23, 2012

 

Last year around this time, I was inspired by a post by Geek Dad on Wired on his picks for the 5 best toys of all time. He listed items—things many of us may overlook as toys—that he feels no kid should be without. “All five should fit easily within any budget, and are appropriate for a wide age range so you get the most play out of each one.”

We also love gadgets and gizmos but realize kids do not need all the bells and whistles in order to play and have fun. I've added 5 more items to the list--making it the Top 10 Toys for Kids. No batteries needed for the toys listed, just some free time and a little bit of imagination. Assembly optional, not required.

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A good stick

My boys rarely return from a walk or trip from the park without a stick. At home, they use them as light sabers, wands, or swords to reenact Star Wars, Harry Potter, Robin Hood, and The Musketeers. And if we are lucky enough to find them on a bridge near a stream, we play Pooh Sticks. Use sticks to make art à la Andy Goldsorthy and Patrick Dougherty or build a small fairy house. We spent hours playing in Dougherty’s temporary stick sculpture at Brown University (pictured here).This magical fortress reaffirms that kids play leads to magnificent things.

More fairy house inspiration: Build It and They Will Come

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A big box

What can you do with a big box or bunch of little ones? A cozy house, a rocket to the moon, and a puppet theater are all within reach when you’ve got a box. Read  how-to make your own puppet theater from an old refrigerator box or a submarine using 2 boxes.

More box inspiration: Think Inside The Box! and What can you make from a cereal box?

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String

In addition to Geek Dad’s suggestion of using string to play cat’s cradle, it can also be used to turn a stick into a bow (and arrow) or fishing pole. Use small sticks and colored string to make a God’s Eye craft. And if you add a little paint, children can make string paintings.

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Cardboard tube

Tubes of all sizes are coveted items in our house as well. Small ones can be turned into rocket ships or used as a telescope. Tape two toilet paper tubes together to make binoculars or attach tubes to small boxes to make larger space ships. Long wrapping paper or poster tubes can be used for sword play or light saber duels. Tubes are much safer than sticks when it comes to dueling. Although we have never tried it, you can turn small toilet paper tubes into a kazoo (pictured here) with a few extra supplies easily found around the house.

More tube inspiration: Make a Valentine Crush Cracker.

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Dirt

Perfect for building mountains or making caves. Add water and make mud pies.

More dirt and water inspiration: Marvelous Mud

Photo: Erin Goodman

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Water

Freeze water in a small container to make icebergs (pictured here). Paint the garage door with clear water. No cleanup necessary. Put water in a bucket and then test what floats. Dirt? Sticks? And as mentioned above, mix with dirt to make mud pies and more.

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Blanket

Add string or a clip and turn the blanket into a superhero cape or drape it on the ground for a stage or picnic. Cuddle up in it and tell stories.

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Chair(s)

With a little imagination, chairs are transformed into airplane or train seats or used as is for tea parties. If you have more than one chair and a blanket make a fort or a puppet theater.

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Paper

Our house has an endless supply of scrap paper from junk mail or discarded sheets from the printer. Fold it to make origami animals or paper airplanes. Draw on it. Twirl it around a stick, add glue and make paper beads, such as these, from Rag and Bone Bindery.

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Tape

This is the only item on the list that is not free. However it’s relatively inexpensive and offers endless creative possibilities from crafts to engineering fun. Our favorite way to use it? Make wall art.

More tape inspiration: Tape Resist Abstract Painting

Anisa Raoof is the publisher and founder of Kidoinfo, the parents' guide for Rhode Island and beyond.

 
 

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